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UNHCR issues urgent appeal to Kenya to halt refoulement of Somali refugees

©UNHCR / E. Hockstein

© UNHCR/R.Gangale

UNHCR remains very concerned over the fate of the more than 8000 Somalis who were ordered out of the Mandera area of northeast Kenya at the start of November. Initially most moved into the no-man’s land between Kenya and Somalia and refused to go further. As of 5th November it appeared however that some have dispersed, while others are believed to have fled into neighbouring Ethiopia.

Those ordered out had been sheltering in difficult conditions close to the Border Point One camp, where they had been since 17th October. Most were women, children, and elderly people who had fled there to escape fighting between Al-Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa forces around the Somali town of Bulla Hawo.

On 4 November, UNHCR staff were in touch with some of the refugees by phone. They sad they were reluctant to move back into Somalia for fear of insecurity, that people were living in the open in shelters made mainly of sticks, and that they were in urgent need of better shelter, food and water.

In his speech to UNHCR’s executive committee, in October, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, appealed for Somalis to receive international protection in line with the updated eligibility guidelines that UNHCR issued earlier this year. Those guidelines point to the very substantial risks for anyone being returned to central or southern Somalia.